Letter to the Finance Minister

 | March 19,2012 10:13 am IST


Mr. Pranab Mukherjee

Ministry of Finance

The Government of India

Dear Pranab da,

I am one of those common men from one of those common towns of India.

I turned forty nine in
January and have been working on a salary for the past twenty five years in one of those common
offices that dot our countrys landscape. I have a wife who is a homemaker and two daughters.
First of all, I would thank you for giving me a tax exemption which would give me an annual saving of two thousand rupees per year. This effectively means that I would be able to afford that extra pack of cigarettes every month.

Or would I be able to? Thanks to the hike in service tax in most sectors and other duties, I can safely assume that the prices of cigarettes would go up. And so would my familys mobile phone bills which means that I will have to let my younger daughter go out with her boyfriend for a movie instead of just letting her talk with him on the phone. This is a scary proposition indeed after the events of Gurgaon.

Since you have a daughter yourself, Im sure you would understand. You would also understand the integral role which gold has to play in Indian marriages. Since my elder daughter is getting married this year, Ill be getting sleepless nights from now on. You knew this was coming, didnt you, Pranab da? That is why you got your daughter married off at the right time before hiking the prices of gold.

Have you ever travelled by train, Pranab da? Im sure you havent because the only reason most Indians travel in a train is because it is dirt cheap pun intended. For us, money is time and not the other way round. And now, thanks to you, we would have to shell out more money for travelling in one of those antiquated boxes of metal that you call a train carriage.

My mind still urges me to agree with my blood group and be positive. Surely there must be something good in this budget. There is something actually according to your budget, life-saving drugs would be cheaper. A very heartening thought indeed. But let me ask you an honest question Pranab da How many of us are able to maintain a regular contingency fund to afford treatment for cancer in the first place? For those who can, how would a slight decrease in prices matter? What would have mattered is the relief we would have got if you have increased the tax slabs significantly. The plumber who came last Tuesday to fix the leaking tap in my house demanded five hundred rupees. Even if he visits two houses every day and works for twenty days a month he would end up earning a total of two lakh and forty thousand rupees about five thousand less monthly from what I earn as the single breadwinner of a family of four. And he would not have to pay a single penny of tax while I would have to donate ten percent of my hard earned money through TDS for the supposed betterment of the country. And, after all my expectations, what I get is an annual savings of two thousand rupees.

Pranab da, I plan to enroll my younger daughter for an MBA program as that seems to be the best method of earning money in todays times. Instead of wasting an exorbitant amount of money at a business school, Im thinking of sending her over to your office as an intern after all, who else could teach her better marketing practices? By increasing the individual tax exemption limit by just twenty thousand rupees, you are giving us that wee bit of extra money more to spend and thus help the market. And by increasing the duties, you ensure that the money flows back into the system again. And we, like the fools we are, are lured into believing that we have more liquidity.

The new budget is expected to be a boon for rural development and an overall growth of the agriculture sector. But Pranab da, there exists an India away from its villages and away from the high-rises of its metros. It is the mofussil India where salaried individuals like me toil away the better part of their lifetimes to ensure that their next generation leads a better life. And Im sorry to say but your budget does not go anywhere in helping us realize those dreams.

Exasperatedly yours,

The Common Man.